Spring sporting fever
Athletes, coaches eager to flee gym for great outdoors
The sun goes down a little later and temperatures hint at spring's arrival occasionally, but the great outdoors still aren't cooperating fully for Tonganoxie High's spring sports teams.
Practice began March 3 for track, baseball, softball and golf, but the teams have found limited time on the track, the greens and the diamonds.
A winter storm made its way through the area midway through last week, keeping students out of school and athletes away from practice. Soggy fields still remain after last week's storm, as both the Chieftain baseball and softball teams have had short practice time on their fields.
But softball coach Mark Mall said he's accustomed to the Kansas weather routine.
"You learn to deal with it," Mall said. "The rough part is just getting on the field."
The softball team practiced just once on Friday, but the team could only use the outfield because of wet conditions.
Tonganoxie baseball players only have practiced twice on the field -- the first day of practice and Monday. First-year coach Sean Randall said his defense could at least field hits off the bat.
Despite scrambling for space in the junior high and high school gymnasiums, Randall's team still has gotten work in, even though they're confined to four walls.
The team has had instruction on chalkboards and drills inside during practices.
"When you're inside you can correct your swings with 1,000 different drills," Randall said.
But if the team could manage some practices on the field soon, Randall would welcome it.
"We have 13 more practices before the first game and we've got a lot to get done," Randall said Monday.
The Chieftains have 33 players out this season and open the year March 31 in Ottawa.
Tonganoxie softball gets under way April 3 at Jeff West against the JWHS and Atchison. THS also has 33 girls out for softball.
Track participants have had slightly better luck outside. Distance runners have been running on city streets most days and weight throwers have had some practice time outside. Jumpers haven't had as much luck, as they've been confined to the junior high most days.
But to help alleviate space problems inside the high school and junior high, sprinters and hurdlers are practicing at the Genesis Academy gymnasium. This is the first year the track team has used the gym, boys coach Phil Williams said, which is helping with the annual problem in early spring.
"We're all kind of in the same boat," Williams said. "This is always the way we start the track season."
The team has roughly 40 boys and 20 girls out this season. Tonganoxie opens the season April 8 at the Lansing Invitational.
"I think it's been going pretty well," Williams said. "We're used to that early season."
Tonganoxie's fourth spring sport hasn't seen much practice spent outside, but that doesn't really bother THS golf coach Darren Neas because there are plenty of things to do inside.
"It's not bad for the first week or so because there are a lot of rules and golf etiquette and the mechanics of knowing which courses we're going to," Neas said.
The weather likely will be more accommodating in the next two weeks, so the Chieftains can start practicing on area courses in Basehor, Bonner Springs, De Soto and Leavenworth.
With 17 golfers out compared to last year's 10 in the program's inaugural season, Neas has sent two groups to different sites when they've actually practiced.
If the temperature is at 40 degrees or above, Neas sends his team to the courses. If not, golfers spend time on grip and stance in the junior high.
Golfers open the season in the Mill Valley dual March 26 at the Shawnee Country Club.